EP REVIEW: Shannen James – ‘Arrows’

Words by Kate Lockyer {Kate Lockyer Music}

Melbourne musician Shannen James released her debut EP ‘Arrows’ just last week (25/09/2020), cementing her place as an upcoming Australian indie queen. Shannen put out her first single Something in the Water last year, and since then her popularity has soared, getting airtime on Triple J’s radio program for her bright tunes. The EP is full to the brim with flawless vocals and jangly electric guitar.

The first track, Something in the Water, is the first song she wrote for the EP, and in this we see the essence of her writing – quietly confident melodies draped in the silk of Shannen’s gentle vocals. She says of the song that it “was one of the first songs I wrote that I really felt stylistically was where I wanted my music to go and I guess it acted as somewhat of a spring board for future songs and sounds.” She kicks off the EP with a stripped-back indie bop, but it would be a mistake to assume that this is her niche, because there is much more yet to come.

If you’ve already heard Arrows, released earlier this year, you’ll understand why it is the title track for the EP. It’s hands down the catchiest song of the year for me. The first time I heard it on the radio, I was singing the chorus for a week. But it has more going for it than just the tune. It feels like the best possible combination of Shannen’s agile songwriting mixed in with her varied musical influences.  It is both anthemic and vulnerable in turn, with an empowering message and a captivating story to tell. The song starts with a burst of energy as foot-tapping percussion gives way to sundrenched electric guitar. Shannen sings at first about change, about drifting away from what she’s used to. When the chorus kicks in, we find that she is far from giving up. “So what? You’re pulling on my line but you lost it / Couldn’t see your hand, couldn’t stop it / Can’t see round the bow in the river / Still got some arrows in my quiver.”

The next track, Empty Eyes, is another memorable tune. Others have highlighted her Fleetwood Mac-esque tones, and this song feels like a modern-day Dreams, completely unique but with the same ethereal atmosphere. It grapples with the realization that someone is slipping away from you – “Every time, you say you’ll try / But you say it through those empty eyes”.

Collide finds Shannen intoxicating us with her punchy vocals and catchy chorus. The verses are percussive, listing out all the ways they are opposites, pulling together the staccato lyrics with synth and bright-sounding percussion to introduce the chorus: “We get pulled together just to get pushed apart / Are we hopeless? Did you notice? / Everything is telling us that we should move on / But it feels right, when we collide”. The chorus is infectious, as is the idea of opposites attracting.

Seventeen is flirty and fresh. It’s a youthful musical playground, full of tambourines and electric beats. The track riffs on the idea of staying young at heart, and just like the rest of Shannen’s music, it’s full of zest. Her voice is gorgeously light and warm, like the tease of an ocean breeze. It’s a reminder to stay adventurous; suddenly I want to plan a weekend with friends after lyrics like “Stole my brother’s cheap wine / Swimming in the moonlight / Jumping in the car with nowhere to go”.

The last track, Golden, is a much more tender song than the rest of the EP. Shannen opens a window into her heart and shares a song that she wrote on the second-year anniversary of her grandmother’s death. It is a healing song, both a requiem and step towards moving on. “I was escaping / And I was hoping for a place to hide / Tonight I’ll be dreaming of you / Golden on the other side”. Listening to soft guitar and Shannen’s voice, it feels like watching the sun’s rays, golden with warmth.

‘Arrows’ is a stunning debut EP from Shannen, with tracks that will dazzle any fan of indie-pop. From the unforgettable riffs and soaring chorus in Arrows, to the melancholic swirl of tones in Empty Eyes, she showcases the full extent of her talent.

Tune in/Purchase ‘Arrows’ HERE

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With thanks to Ivy League Records + Mushroom Group

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